Musselburgh Racecourse Hotels

Musselburgh race
Lee Live / Flickr.com

Around six miles to the east of Edinburgh, in the coastal region of Millhill, lies Scotland’s second-largest racecourse. Close to both the River Esk and the Firth of Forth, Musselburgh racecourse benefits from a most scenic location; whilst its proximity to and strong transport links with the capital city help to draw in the crowds.

Formerly known as Edinburgh Racecourse, the track has experienced something of an up and down history but is now firmly established as one of Scotland’s premier tracks, and a popular destination for racegoers from near and far.

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Hotels

Sitting so close to both the Scottish coast and the sights and sounds of Edinburgh, Musselburgh Racecourse lies in what is something of a tourist hotspot. With that in mind, many paying a visit to the track will likely consider extending their trip with an overnight stay in order to take in a little more of what the area has to offer. Whether it is Musselburgh’s small-town charm, the big city experience of Edinburgh, or the beautiful Scottish countryside that catches your eye, there are numerous options available.

Closest to the Course

With a population of around 20,000, the town of Musselburgh is the largest settlement in the East Lothian region of Scotland, and the logical choice if proximity to the track is a priority for you. Well within walking distance of the course, the town boasts a number of points of interest, including Musselburgh Museum and Newhailes House and Gardens. In addition, there are a range of excellent pubs with the Horseshoe Tavern, the Ship Inn and the Hole in the Wall all well worth a visit. In terms of accommodation options, there are a few hotels near the racetrack, as well as plenty of independent B&B style places.

Ravelston House Musselburgh
Ravelston House
20 min walk

Ravelston House offers accommodation, along with with a bar, restaurant, garden and private parking in the heart of Musselburgh. You can even get an afternoon tea at the hotel and there are various events, such as a pub quiz, gin tastings, and live music on occasion. Best of all, the hotel is just a 20-minute walk to Musselburgh Racecourse.

The Ship Inn Musselburgh
The Ship Inn
21 min walk

The Ship Inn in Musselburgh offers pub style accommodation with a restaurant that serves Scottish cuisine.  The hotel is just a 21-minute walk from Musselburgh Racecourse making it perfectly located for anyone going to the races hoping to stay in town.

Best Western Kings Manor Musselburgh
Best Western Kings Manor
9 min drive

The Best Western Kings Manor is technically in Edinburgh, though on the outskirts in the direction of Musselburgh. There is a 20-metre swimming pool and a gym, as well as a leisure club with a sauna and steam room. There is a bistro and bar with breakfast each morning and the hotel is a 5-minute walk from Brunstane train station.

An Edinburgh Excursion

For those seeking the big city experience to complement their racing trip, the beautiful Scottish capital of Edinburgh is the obvious selection. Only around six-miles to the east of the track, and enjoying excellent transport links with Musselburgh town centre, the city boasts an impressive array of attractions. The Royal Mile and Edinburgh Castle should keep history buffs entertained, whilst the town also boasts more pubs, clubs and bars than you can blow your bagpipes at, including the traditional Jolly Judge, independent Black Cat, and intriguingly named, Hoot the Redeemer.

Unsurprisingly, as a major urban centre, accommodation options are in plentiful supply with quite literally hundreds to choose from. The majority of major chains seem to be represented, as well as budget options, and more upmarket hotels for those seeking a more luxurious experience. From Edinburgh (Waverley) train station, you can get to Wallyford, which is the station closest to the racecourse, in around 12 minutes. It is then an 12-minute bus journey to the racecourse. On major race days, they offer a free courtesy bus from Wallyford to the track.

Radisson Blu Hotel, Edinburgh City Centre
Radisson Blu Hotel, Edinburgh City Centre
26 min drive

The Radisson Blu Hotel, Edinburgh City Centre is just a 4-minute walk to Waverley train station where you can hop on a train to Musselburgh Racecourse or you can drive there in 26-minutes. There is a spa and fitness centre with an indoor heated swimming pool with a bar & kitchen that overlooks the famous Royal Mile.

Motel One Edinburgh-Royal
Motel One Edinburgh-Royal
27 min drive

The Motel One is just a 3-minute stroll to Edinburgh's Waverley station and 27-minutes driving to Musselburgh's racetrack. The hotel offers a chic setting with a lounge that offers drinks and snacks, as well as a healthy breakfast buffet each day.

The Scotsman Hotel Edinburgh
The Scotsman Hotel
27 min drive

The Scotsman Hotel is just a 5-minute walk from Waverley train station for those hoping to get to the racecourse via public transport or a 27-minute drive door-to-door. There is a small picturehouse theatre within the hotel, as well as a luxurious café and bar. You can also treat yourself to afternoon tea and a full Scottish breakfast.

Head Down in the Hills

Whilst many like to keep the party going following a day at the races, for others, relaxing and unwinding is the name of the game. Where better to discover a little peace and tranquillity than in the midst of the rugged Scottish landscape? Having lent its name to the 2019 Triumph Hurdle winner, the Pentland Hills Regional Park, only around 25 miles to the south of the course, loosely keeps the racing theme going and provides the perfect spot to get away from it all. A number of B&B-style establishments are dotted around the northern edge of the park, as well as a few hotel options on the outskirts of Edinburgh.

Courtyard by Marriott Edinburgh West
Courtyard by Marriott Edinburgh West
25 min drive

Located on the outskirts of Edinburgh, the Courtyard by Marriott Edinburgh West is just a 25-minute drive to Musselburgh Racecourse and just minutes away from the Pentland Hills for those wishing to do a few hikes in the area. The hotel offers a restaurant, bar, work area and snack station.

The Balerno Inn Edinburgh
The Balerno Inn
32 min drive

The Balerno Inn is on the outskirts of Edinburgh near the Pentland Hills and just over 30-minutes driving to Musselburgh racetrack. The hotel has a British/Scottish restaurant, bar and even has a small children's playground in the beer garden.

The Craigie Hotel Edinburgh
The Craigie Hotel
28 min drive

The Craigie Hotel in Penicuik is under 30-minutes drive to Musselburgh Racecourse. The hotel offers a restaurant, bar, and garden, as well as a full Scottish breakfast each morning. The hotel is perfectly located for anyone wanting to visit the racecourse, Edinburgh, as well as the Pentland Hills Regional Park.

About the Racecourse

Musselburgh Racecourse grandstands
Lee Live / Flickr.com

With at least one fixture in every calendar month, Musselburgh is a truly year-round venue, staging flat action during the summer months, before the jumps take over in late autumn. Jumps racing is incidentally only a relatively recent addition to the programme, having made its debut at the track in 1987. All told the track lays on 28 fixtures over the course of its season: 17 flat and 11 National Hunt, with a punter-friendly 14 evening or weekend meetings.

Situated only around a mile from the A1, and two miles from the A720 Edinburgh City bypass, the track is easy to reach by road although traffic can be busy on race days, so be sure to leave plenty of time for your journey. The A9, M90, A90, A902 and A199 all approach from the north, with the M6, M74, A702 and A720 being the best roads to take for those arriving from a southerly direction.

Once in the vicinity of the course motorists will find the track to be very well signposted, whilst for satnav uses the postcode is EH21 7RG. A road bridge over the River Esk leading directly to the track is open on race days but closed at all other times. Free car parking is available around a five-minute walk from the track, with signs in place to guide, whilst a free shuttle bus also operates from the car park to the course entrance for those who don’t fancy the stroll.

For those arriving by rail, Wallyford Station in the east of Musselburgh is the closest to the track. A small provincial station, Wallyford lies on the Edinburgh Waverly to North Berwick line, but travellers from most areas of the UK will need to change at least once. The track is then around a 20-minute walk from the train station, with a free park and ride service to the track also available.

Racegoers making their way to the track from Edinburgh also have the option of the 26, 44, 106, 113, 124 and X24 bus services which all stop in the town centre, whilst a free shuttle bus travels from Edinburgh Station to Wallyford Station. Newcraighall train station meanwhile lies further from the track than that of Wallyford but does offer a free bus service to the course on all race days.

The Course

Both the flat and National Hunt action are staged on the same track at Musselburgh. Right-handed and sharp, the elongated oval circuit measures around 1m2f in circumference with a four-furlong home straight. Almost completely flat throughout, the one exception comes in the final one and a half furlongs which features a slight rise to the line. In addition to the main oval, a spur runs directly into the five-furlong 5f course.

One of the most notable features of the track is just how tight the turns are. In fact, until relatively recently, the bend out of the back straight and into the home straight was just about the tightest in the whole of British racing. Extensive cambering works have gone some way towards offsetting this, but a degree of agility and balance remains one of the prerequisites for success at a track ill-suited to the long-striding galloping type of performer. Whilst not as tight as the turn for home, that which takes the runners away from the stands is somewhat unique in featuring an all-weather surface. Having regularly suffered from weathering, the turf on this section of the track was replaced with a £100,000 Polytrack strip in 2012.

Those tackling the chase course are faced with eight relatively stiff fences per circuit, evenly split between the back and home straight. The hurdles track meanwhile features six flights, again evenly split, with three in the backstretch and three in the home straight. Following the jumping of the last on both the chase and hurdles layout, the runners are faced with a run-in of around 150 yards.

Prominent racers tend to enjoy an edge over all distances, particularly when the going is good or quicker which – thanks to the rapidly draining sandy subsoil – it frequently is. In terms of the draw, high numbers are much the best over five furlongs as the runners often tack over to the stands rail. Those drawn low against the inside rail enjoy a slight edge over all other distances.

Dress Code

A welcoming and tourist-friendly course, Musselburgh has one of the most relaxed dress codes around. Visitors to the Lothian venue are largely free to dress as they please, whilst of course, avoiding anything likely to cause offence and remaining on the right side of decency. Do bear in mind though that many racegoers do opt to smarten things up on the bigger race days, and nowhere more so than at the track’s signature Ladies Day.

There’s some good news for the ladies looking to slip into those heels, as all public areas are paved, significantly reducing the risk of any stuck-in-the-mud disasters. Finally, whatever you choose to wear, do remember to factor in the weather, as the Scottish coast is no stranger to the wind and rain.

The Stands

Musselburgh has just the one standard enclosure priced at £20 for a midweek fixture, £25 for a midweek meeting and rising to £50 for the hugely popular Ladies Day. Note that the quoted prices refer to tickets booked in advance and will be around £5 more expensive if purchased on the day. Concessions are available for students and OAP’s whilst under 18’s go free with a paying adult at all meetings other than Ladies Day. Standard entry affords access to the parade ring, winning post and a range of bars and eateries including Pinkie’s Bar, Café 1816 and walk-in restaurant The Bistro.

In addition to standard entry, a selection of dining and hospitality packages are available, ranging from the £35 to £39 Burger and Fish and Chip bundles, up to the more a la carte offerings of the Epperston and Queen’s Stand restaurants which start at around £100 per person. The picnic pavilion meanwhile offers a private table right alongside the running rail for around £120 per head.

Upcoming Fixtures at Musselburgh

Date Time Type Surface
Saturday 30th March 2024 Afternoon Flat Turf
Friday 5th April 2024 Evening Jump Turf
Sunday 21st April 2024 Afternoon Flat Turf
Friday 3rd May 2024 Afternoon Flat Turf
Saturday 1st June 2024 Afternoon Flat Turf
Thursday 13th June 2024 Evening Flat Turf
Wednesday 3rd July 2024 Afternoon Flat Turf
Tuesday 23rd July 2024 Afternoon Flat Turf
Friday 2nd August 2024 Evening Flat Turf
Friday 9th August 2024 Afternoon Flat Turf
Tuesday 27th August 2024 Afternoon Flat Turf
Wednesday 28th August 2024 Afternoon Flat Turf
Saturday 14th September 2024 Evening Flat Turf
Sunday 15th September 2024 Afternoon Flat Turf
Wednesday 2nd October 2024 Afternoon Flat Turf
Monday 14th October 2024 Afternoon Flat Turf
Wednesday 6th November 2024 Afternoon Flat Turf
Thursday 28th November 2024 Afternoon Jump Turf
Friday 29th November 2024 Afternoon Jump Turf
Monday 9th December 2024 Afternoon Jump Turf

Major Meetings

Musselburgh meeting
kaysgeog / Flickr.com

Whilst not yet boasting a contest at either Graded or Group level, Musselburgh still punches above its weight in terms of high-profile meetings, with a steady stream of quality fixtures spread throughout both the flat and jumps campaigns.

Known as the “Sensational Six”, it is the New Year’s Day Meeting, the Scottish Festival Trials Weekend, Easter Saturday, Ladies Day, the Summer Finale and the Edinburgh Cup that provide the real cornerstones of the year. Whilst there isn’t a bad fixture amongst that sextet, the following three get our vote as being the track’s biggest and best meetings.

Ladies Day

Taking place in August each year, this fixture was only added to the Musselburgh offering in 2004 in an effort to attract a more diverse range of customer. It has certainly proven to be a success. So successful in fact that in 2007 it became the first-ever Scottish racing fixture to sell out in advance. Boasting live music, a “Best Dressed Lady” competition, and the Listed Maggie Dickson Stakes on the track, it is no surprise that this summertime sizzler has earned the reputation as being the biggest and best Ladies Day at any Scottish track.

Festival Trial’s Weekend

Whilst Ladies Day is tough to beat in terms of glitz and glamour, for local jumps racing aficionados this two-day fixture in February will likely be one of the first days pencilled into the calendar. Taking place on a punter-friendly Saturday and Sunday, the opening day is lit up by the track’s signature staying handicap of the Edinburgh National, whilst Sunday sees the Scottish Triumph Hurdle and the Scottish County Hurdle. Regularly attracting quality performers from both north and south of the border, this meeting often provides a useful pointer or two ahead of the Cheltenham and Aintree Festivals.

Easter Saturday

The Easter Bunny arrives a day early at Musselburgh, bringing a host of free game stalls, fairground rides and face painting to the dedicated “Kids Zone”, and some cracking action on the track for the punters. There’s plenty of variety amongst the racing entertainment too, with the day’s feature events coming in the shape of the pedal to the metal Scottish Sprint Cup, and the gruelling 1m6f Queen’s Cup which offers an excellent £100,000 in total prize money. Taking place in the heart of the Easter holiday season, this is comfortably the track’s most popular family fixture.

History

Musselburgh views from the grandstand
Lee Live / Flickr.com

Racing has taken place in this Scottish coastal region since way back in 1777, with the sands of Leith providing the stage for much of the early action – the majority of which was held under the banner of the Royal Caledonian Hunt.

1816: Track Laid Out

It wasn’t until 1816 that a more permanent track was laid out at the current site by the Musselburgh Town Council. So pleased were the Royal Caledonian Hunt with this new layout that they dished out 50 Guineas amongst Musselburgh’s poorer citizens by way of celebration. What percentage of this was then subsequently lost at the track remains unreported.

The popularity of racing and betting in the area soon took off, with a period of steady growth developing into a real boom time following the Second World War, resulting in attendances of 15,000+ for even the more run of the mill meetings.

1961: Legalisation of Betting Shops Affects Racecourse Attendance

1961 then dealt a major blow to the course, with the legalisation of off-course betting shops seeing punters stay away in ever-increasing numbers. Spelling the end for fellow Scottish tracks Lanark and Bogside, this change in the betting landscape initially looked very bleak for Musselburgh too.

Surviving rather than prospering throughout the ’70s and ’80s, the track received a significant boost in 1991 when the East Lothian Council stepped in to manage the running of the course. Quickly balancing the books, the council then established the Musselburgh Joint Racing Committee in 1994, with a £7.5 million investment plan put in place to begin in 1995.

Creation of the Queen’s Stand & Links Pavilion

From there, it has been a case of onwards and upwards, with the building of the Queen’s Stand and Links Pavilion, and upgrades to the parade ring and stables, leading to increased attendance in the stands and an improved experience for racing staff.

So successful have the changes been that total attendance has almost doubled since 1999, rising from 38,000 to 70,000, whilst in 2011 Musselburgh won the award for the best dual-purpose track – beating the far more prestigious Ascot into second place. Now part of the Chester Racing Group – already so successful in managing the tracks at both Chester and Bangor-On-Dee – the future certainly looks bright for one of Scotland’s premier racing venues.